If you mention long-running West End shows to a theatre fan, the first production they name is probably going to be Les Miserables or The Phantom of the Opera, both having passed the elusive quarter of a century milestone. There are several shows which are not lingering too far behind on the trail however, such as We Will Rock You, The Lion King and Mamma Mia!. The latter has been one of the biggest successes for the jukebox musical franchise and celebrates an impressive anniversary today, having opened on 6th April 1999; exactly fourteen years ago. In commemoration of this event, it seemed only right to look to the West End cast of Mamma Mia when it came to selecting an ensemble performer to feature in this week’s In Profile. A show’s cast after all, is a big part of its appeal and lasting popularity. And on that note, representing all that is right with musical theatre – and the phenomenon that is Mamma Mia in particular – is ensemble member Claire Poyzer.
Poyzer is a graduate of the Bird College of Performing Arts, having won a place at the prestigious school following auditions to numerous schools in London. The Nottingham girl, born in Calverton, started her musical theatre journey long before then though. The childhood song and dance routines she and her sister performed for their parents bloomed into a very real desire to perform for a much larger audience in London’s West End. Growing up, Poyzer took dance classes and even joined the Carlton Operatic Society before leaving home at the young age of 16 to train professionally for a life on the stage.
After graduating from Birds, she worked as a singer on cruise ships for a time. She was then offered a recording contract in her early 20’s and even released an album title Angels before the company collapsed, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as a musical theatre career would bring her far more satisfaction than life as a pop star.
One of Poyzer’s earliest stage roles was actually in Mamma Mia, understudying Tania and playing the character onstage on numerous occasions in the international touring production of the musical – coinciding with the release of the film. Another big role for her was playing ballet teacher Miss Bell in the national tour of classic musical Fame, which she once likened to the feel of “a rock concert” when performing in front of the vast and wildly enthusiastic audiences of Fame fans. Other tours she has performed on include the UK tour of High Society (Ensemble and understudy Mother Lord), and the national tours of Burt ‘N’ Joyce (Joyce), Thick As Thieves (Julie) and Fabba (Agnetha).
A stage performers list of credits wouldn’t be complete without a little panto stint included in there somewhere and Poyzer doesn’t disappoint, having appeared in three separate pantomime classics: She played The Giant’s Wife in Jack and the Beanstalk (Nottingham Playhouse), Prince Charming in Cinderella (Hazlitt Theatre) and the title role in Aladdin (Bonnington Theatre). The remainder of her theatre credits are comprised of a variety of stage projects, such as playing Laura in The Scarlett Bus (Nottingham Live Theatre), Lavora in The Two Lovers of Verona (Lavora Theatre), Kate in The Matchgirls (Churchill Theatre) and Hellevicia in The Rat Pack for Flying Music Ltd. She also played Baba Barmaid in a Nottingham-based production of Bedders and Bike.
The musical theatre gene must have been contagious as Poyzer has an older sister Sara who has also had success in the West End, having performed in such shows as Billy Elliot. In a 2009 interview with hometown newspaper The Nottingham Post, she talked about the likelihood of two sisters from a non-musical background both entering the industry, saying: “My mum is a nurse and my dad is an IT manager. My nana used to enjoy singing in the shower but that’s as far as it went!”
She is now back on familiar ground with Mamma Mia, although she’s upgraded those tour venues for the Novello Theatre in the West End production of the popular ABBA-based musical. Currently performing in Mamma Mia as a member of the ensemble team, she also doubles up as Alternate Donna and appears in the principal role at certain performances.
Claire Poyzer is certainly a talented performer. A rising star in musical theatre circles, I’m sure there are no limits as to just how high her star can rise.
By Julie Robinson @missjulie25
You can follow Claire on Twitter: @ClairePoyzer